KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tee Martin and Lane Kiffin left vastly different legacies at Tennessee.
Both now offensive coordinators, they will be on opposite sidelines Saturday Sept. 3, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, when the Trojans and Crimson Tide kick off their respective seasons.
Martin, the offensive coordinator for USC, is an Alabama native with some unique history with the Crimson Tide.
Kiffin, of course, was fired from his post as the Trojans’ head coach prior to being hired at Alabama.
As for their Tennessee backgrounds, Martin and Kiffin, couldn’t be more different — Martin a hero in Knoxville, Kiffin a villain.
Martin led the Vols to the 1998 national championship and remains one of only two UT quarterbacks in school history to never lose a home start at Neyland Stadium (Bobby Scott) over the course of two seasons.
Kiffin, meanwhile, was the Vols head coach in 2009 before leaving the program infected with issues that have taken years to sort out and overcome.
In addition to committing several violations that sparked an NCAA investigation and led to probation, Kiffin recruited players with character issues that carried over into Derek Dooley’s ill-fated era as head coach after Kiffin bolted for the head coaching job at Southern Cal.
Martin revealed Wednesday on Mobile’s WNSP 105.5 that Kiffin brought many of the Trojans’ offensive concepts with him to Alabama after being fired by USC in 2013 and hired by Nick Saban in 2014.
“A couple of years ago, Lane pretty much adopted what we do on offense,” Martin said. “From how they get plays in, the way their mechanics on offense, Alabama and Lane pretty much adopted what we do here at Southern Cal.”
As for the Tide’s defense, it’s a Nick Saban original regardless of who is coordinator, Martin said.
“Throughout the changes, it’s still going to be a Nick Saban-type of defense,” Martin said. “It may have some tweaks from (new defensive coordinator) Jeremy Pruitt.”
Pruitt previously coached at Georgia (2014-15) and Florida State (2013), and Martin has made sure to do his homework on those previous stints.
“We’ve done our study of Georgia, Florida State and Alabama,” Martin said, “and we’ll put our plan together based on what we see.”
Martin, who is from Mobile, Ala., was heavily recruited by the Crimson Tide coming out of high school.
An improper contact by an Alabama assistant coach at a camp, inadvertent as it was, resulted in restrictions in the Tide’s recruitment of Martin.
Martin ended up at Tennessee, and the rest is history.
The Sept. 3 game will mark Martin’s first as offensive coordinator, though he said he would be relying on his offensive staff for input throughout.
“I’ve called plays before, (and) I’ve called plays here, it’s just the first time I’ve called plays 100 percent of the time,” Martin said. “But even then … we all come together as an offensive staff and do our segments of the game plan.
“I don’t just go in a room by myself and punch buttons and come up with these things and then this is what we’ll do,” Martin said. “We do things together.”
The Mobile radio hosts played the USC fight song before Martin was introduced on to the show, but Martin made it clear which college tune stands at the top of his list.
“Man, come on, now,” Martin said. “I’m a Volunteer, man, so Rocky Top is my song. USC is probably, like these guys said, one of the best, most recognizable fight songs in all of college football. Both are favorites of mine.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.